The Doha round, which was launched in Doha, Qatar, in November 2001, at the WTO’s Fourth WTO Ministerial Conference round, is aimed at liberalising global trade to make importing and exporting cheaper and easier, with a special emphasis on improving the economies of developing countries.
So dire is the situation that the poorest countries will suffer the most if the round drags on and is not concluded any time soon.
A deal agreeing duty-free, quota-free treatment for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) exports in rich countries and selected emerging markets would be a powerful boost to LDC economies. Simplified rules of origin would make it easier for these countries to take advantage of the opportunities a duty-free, quota-free deal would generate.
A large body of members has made it very clear that the mandates from the 2001 Doha Ministerial Conference, the 2004 Framework Agreement and the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration must be respected.
None of the members have said that they want to renew the mandates or replace them as changing the mandate would require consensus and would thus be very difficult.
Members will be battling with the question of how next to proceed in this regard at the Ministerial Conference slated for December 15-17.
The WTO recently cut its forecast for the growth of trade this year from the 6,5% predicted in April to 5,8%, and warned that the final figure could be lower.
WTO director for Information and External Relations Division Keith Rockwell told Standardbusiness that all negotiations for now have come to a standstill, including those pertaining to farm subsidies. “The primary reason trade volumes shrank by 12% in 2009 is because global demand and investment collapsed. Trade rebounded by 14,5% in 2010 because markets largely stayed open and demand and investment surged as economic growth returned,” said Rockwell.
Rockwell pointed out that the reduction of cotton subsidies and that of overall agriculture subsidies was part of the same negotiation package although cotton subsidies are to be negotiated “expeditiously, specifically and ambitiously”. this is still in relation to the overall farm subsidies negotiations.
WTO members have discussed the possibility of agreeing to some elements, but they have not agreed yet because every country has different priorities and none wants to see an issue of interest to them left behind.